Widell drafted by Twins

King Kekaulike graduate taken in seventh round, intends to sign

Ryley Widell was 8-2 with a 1.98 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 95-2/3 innings pitched for Central Arizona Junior College this season. • BLADE ROBINSON photo

As Ryley Widell pondered his place on the list of Major League Baseball draftees from Maui, he smiled.

“This has been quite the journey for me,” the 2015 King Kekaulike High School graduate said after the Minnesota Twins selected him with the first pick of the seventh round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, 196th overall. “I’ve always wanted to be a professional baseball player and the fact that I was hoping I would be in the top-10 rounds, they draft me. It’s just really exciting. I don’t even know what to say.”

Widell had signed to play next season at the University of North Carolina, but Eric Widell, Ryley’s father, told The Maui News in a text message that Ryley Widell informed the Tar Heels that he intends to sign with the Twins.

Widell, a 6-foot-4 left-handed pitcher, is coming off a sophomore season at Central Arizona Junior College where he was 8-2 with a 1.98 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 95 2/3 innings pitched.

“They followed me around for quite a bit,” Widell said of the Twins. “I didn’t think they were going to be the ones, but I’ve heard a lot of good things and I’m just excited to be in the position I’m in now.”

Widell is the fifth-highest Maui-born player selected in the MLB draft. Only Kurt Suzuki (2004, second round, Oakland Athletics), Branden Kaupe (2012, fourth round, New York Mets), Dayton Aelxander (2011, sixth round, Oakland Athletics), and Shane Victorino (1999, sixth round, Los Angeles Dodgers) have been picked before Widell’s slot.

“Honestly, it’s a blessing, especially with those two big leaguers, a former and a current one right now, just to see their successes,” Widell said. “It just gives me motivation and makes me happy to see that that could eventually be me.”

Widell will most likely know his first professional assignment soon after signing.

“I’m just real excited to be drafted and to possibly be a Twin,” Widell said. “They just want me to enjoy the day today and we will probably talk more about it either tomorrow or the next day.”

MLB.com lists an “approximate pick value” of $220,700 for Widell’s draft slot.

“I can’t talk about that,” Widell said when asked about money. “There’s a lot of things behind the scenes … I’m just really excited to be drafted and have this opportunity. I’m assuming it will be within the next couple days.”

The Twins scout who followed and contacted Widell on Tuesday is named Ted Williams.

“He called me and he congratulated me, and it was a really cool moment,” Widell said. “He pretty much just asked me if I was still interested, and I said, ‘Of course.’ I was just hoping that I would be a top-10-rounder and have the opportunity to possibly play professional baseball.

“Right now, I’m just excited with what’s happened and just going to enjoy the day with my family. Then, I’ll have a discussion with my parents, but I’m just excited to be drafted.”

* Robert Collias is at rcolliasmauinews.com